Friday night’s 42-0 Salesian victory over Kennedy was an intense game for many supporters in the stands as they rose and fell in waves while the Eagles and Pride fought on the field. But one man never took his seat in the Kennedy grandstand throughout the two-hour game.
Mitchell Jamerson paced the stands, his eyes fixed on the player wearing the number 15 jersey on each team: his identical 17-year-old twin sons, Zain and Rashid.
“I’m equally proud of both of them,” said Jamerson, keeping an eye on the match even as he spoke. “All I hope for is a fair game and that no one gets hurt. They’re both good boys and as a parent, you worry from the start of the game ‘til it ends.”
He said that Rashid, who plays for the Eagles, had broken a bone in his leg two years ago. A metal plate was inserted and Jamerson said that though it must have hurt a lot, Rashid “took it like a man.”
“I try to make it to every game that my sons play in, and that’s a lot of games,” Jamerson said.
The twins’ mother, Marcella Jamerson, said her two boys had vastly different personalities.
“Rashid is outgoing and popular while Zain is more reserved and has so much to say but observes before getting close to people,” she said. “But when they’re home, they play video games and watch football together. It’s really a family sport.”
She said her five-year-old daughter Kalila wants to be a cheerleader when she grows up. The Wilson Elementary School teacher said it made her nervous watching the twins play against each other, but it was worse last year. Last year, she said, not only were the twins playing, her youngest son, Idris, also took the field for Kennedy.
“After that game, I’m less nervous about this one but I still worry about injuries,” she said.
The Jamerson family and friends packed the stands – joining a crowd of about 200 — to support the players. Standing near Mitchell, Marcella and their daughter, were two of the twins’ three brothers plus girlfriends, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Their oldest brother, Cy, 25, said that he was excited for both his brothers but watching the game made him miss being on the field. “I’m too old to play now,” he said with a laugh while shaking his head. Idris, 15, plays for the Kennedy JV team.
It was a good night for Zain and the Salesian-following side of the family. Salesian scored in the first minute, controlled the game from there and led 20-0 at halftime. Kennedy Head Coach Mack Carminer raised his voice and jabbed his finger in the air as he told his team to work harder in the second half.
“Our heads are still high and we’re still fighting,” he said. “We have 23 warriors all out on the field tonight.”
But Salesian quickly scored another two touchdowns in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Two rows below the Jamerson twins’ large entourage sat Zaina James, a 17-year-old Salesian student wearing a red-and-white Eagles jersey emblazoned with boyfriend Rashid’s name and number 15 – although for most of the game James, who wore a muffler and scarf, huddled under a zebra-print shawl.
When the third quarter began, the petite girl moved up a row to sit just below Marcella, speaking shyly with her from time to time.
Friday’s game was the second she had attended to show support for her boyfriend.
“I feel like a traitor,” said James, as she pulled her shawl tighter around her. “My friends asked if I would be coming to the game and I said yes but that I’d be on my boyfriend’s side. They just said ‘whatever’, but I know they understand.”
She kept silent as Salesian scored touchdown after touchdown. But when a Pride player crumpled on the far side of the field and seemed to be having difficulty getting up, she nervously began reciting names of who he could be.
“I know some of the players on the Salesian team and they’re my friends,” she said.
Last week against El Cerrito Rashid scored Kennedy’s only touchdown.
In the last quarter, as Rashid took a handoff and began sprinting, the Eagles supporters jumped up and began screaming but he was tackled in the blink of an eye and the cheering fell to silence.
Eagles players were solemn and silent as Carminer gathered his players after the game. Placing his hands on the shoulders of those closest to him, Carminer said that he took responsibility for the loss but encouraged them to learn from it.
“You have all been gifted with the opportunity to play football,” position coach Tim Logan told the team. “Not everyone gets it. If you walk away from this thinking, ‘It’s just high school football,’ you’re going to walk away from everything all your life.”
He added that it was just one game, and that failure was what made a great team greater, before calling for a team cheer.
“I don’t care how you feel right now,” he said, “we’re still a team and we still have seven more games to go.”